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Thought Leaders in Mobile and Social: Penny Herscher, CEO of FirstRain (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, Jun 18th 2012

The sales and marketing teams of large enterprises have their work cut out for them when it comes to curating new business. So, they welcome companies like FirstRain that facilitate the research that’s required to effectively cultivate relationships with prospects. FirstRain is an international company based in San Mateo, California. With satellite offices in New York City and Gurgaon, India, FirstRain serves its global enterprise clientele by combining its technology with social enterprise platforms such as Salesforce.com, Microsoft SharePoint, Jive and Cisco Quad and makes use of research platforms like Standard & Poor’s Capital IQ, FactSet Research Systems, Dun & Bradstreet, Fidelity.com, and Mergent.

Sramana Mitra: Hi, Penny. Let’s start with your background and FirstRain’s background.

Penny Herscher: I’m a serial entrepreneur. This is my second company. I did my first company in the semi-conductor industry. It’s exciting to be in a completely different field now with FirstRain. We’re in the business of solving the enterprise-customer problems for our customers. Our customers tend to be sales and marketing teams that have a B2B business model, and they need to understand their customers and their customers’ customers, which means being able to help them understand and analyze the marketplaces their customers are in and the competitive forces their customers are dealing with in order to be more effective in the sales cycle. Our fundamental value proposition is tht salespeople should do research, so what we do for our customers is make 75% of the sales team as well informed as the top 5% who actually do the research. There’s not a lot that you can do about the bottom 20%, but you can certainly make the top 80% well informed and educated about their customers. By using our particular technology and automation, they can do this in a way that is instantaneous, with no effort, in their workflow wherever they are. That’s where the mobile piece comes in. Obviously, many salespeople are mobile 90% of the time.

SM: All of this analytic work that you do on behalf of salespeople to make them more productive, where is this happening? What’s the architecture?

PH: The system runs in the cloud. It’s a SaaS model. We’re absorbing vast quantities of information from the web and social media, processing it in the data center, and then delivering it into whatever workflow the sales and marketing person is in. That means that it is integrated into CRM. It’s just as likely to be integrated into SharePoint, some kind of standard portal, or it’s delivered to an iPad, to a phone, wherever the user is. The processing is done remotely – the analytics and analysis of the content.

SM: So, it starts as a pull basis from the salesperson?

PH: It can be either pushed or pulled. With some models, the sales enablement team has integrated the analytics directly into, for example, Salesforce.com. Then it’s effectively present. I don’t know if that’s push or pull. It’s sitting in a CRM system as a salesperson works on his pipeline, monitors his opportunities, and so on. There’s a pull model on the iPad where the salesperson would download our iPad app, log in, and then use it on the iPad like an application. And there’s a push model because anything we deliver can also be delivered in email.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Thought Leaders in Mobile and Social: Penny Herscher, CEO of FirstRain
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